Pipeline Challenge 2018 - 550km Over 5 Days - 90% Gravel (330 over 3 Days)

Words by Luke Golden

A little context.

Let us take you on an epic adventure from the red dirt of the Goldfields to the gardens of Perth’s iconic Mundaring Weir. Over five unforgettable days, you will trace the golden pipeline which has been delivering fresh water to Kalgoorlie for over a century. More than just a mountain bike ride, the Pipeline Challenge proudly raises awareness and money for West Australian charity Youth Futures who have been supporting at-risk young people for three decades. - a snippet from the Pipeline Challenge.

Adventure Write Up

Day 1

Once the ute was up to scratch for the event (2 way, 2 spare tyres, amber flashing light and seat covers) and the tools and spares had been sent ahead with Dismantle CEO, Pat Ryan. Everything else should be simple. Pack some kit and a bike. That’s it. Pick up Johno at 12, then 5-hour drive to Southern Cross. 5 hours went pretty quick, as johno and I aren’t afraid of a bit of a yarn. Once training, bike setups and tactics (it’s not a race) had been discussed, we were there. We had missed the first 2 days due to prior engagements, so we going to be covering around 340km in 3 days, as a team of 2.

We arrived to see a few of the last riders to roll in from the 2nd day of riding. 187km… into a headwind. As you can imagine, there were some broken riders, but they didn’t stay broken for long. We were camping at the Southern Cross oval, and in the club room, there was a buffet put on by a local cafe. The usual, beef and gravy, potato bake, not exactly gourmet, but perfect after a long day in the saddle (or the car seat). We noshed down and got the low down about how the first 2 days of riding went. Then a bit of a briefing around what to expect the next day, from Mark, the CEO of Youth Futures, who run the event. A little bit of dessert then jumps in the swag for an early start. Oh, we snuck off to the local, the Palace Hotel, for a pint. Beautiful old pub. The landlord had only been in charge for 8 days. When asked how it was going, he replied,”Well, we’ve been drinking a lot of piss!”


Day 2

Our first day of riding. Wake up at sparrows. Breakfast is served. Weetbix, toast, tea and coffee and some yogurt were on the cards. Grab your lunch, which has already been prepared with love by a local cafe. 110km of gravel awaited us. Our tactics today were to hit out half each. I warmed up for the first 5km, then it was time to pick up the pace.

The road was what you’d expect. Graded gravel with the odd sandy section. The Giant ToughRoad with Maxxis Ikon 2.2s done the job nicely. I paced by heart rate, keeping it at around 90% of LHR. It really is a beautiful country out on the Wheatbelt, stunning rolling hills and the odd rocky outcrop.


At the halfway point, Johno jumped on his Giant TCX running WTB Nano 40s. The big fella started laying down the power. The cross bike really was adequate for the event, a little sketch in a few of the corrugated spots. This really is an event that any ability of rider can join in. The route isn’t technical, so peeps with little off-road experience wouldn’t be out of their depth. If you aren’t really fit you can split the load between a duo or a team. One of you can ride at a time or all of you then jump in your support vehicle for a rest when you’re pooped. If you’re fit you can challenge it solo, or just go flat tack the whole time you’re in the saddle.


When we landed in Merridin, it was a quick stretch, clean the bikes, and clean ourselves at the local footy ground. Then Johno and I stuck into any mechanical issues that occurred during the day. A quick pint in the Northside Tav before Dinner. Rinse and repeat.


Day 3

170km. This time we had decided to split the ride into quarters, due to the length of the day. Apparently the last 20km had a fair bit of elevation through some private paddocks. When you start in the morning, the teams and soloists are set off in 10-minute intervals so that there isn’t too much chaos and overtaking with all the support vehicles. We left the start at the same time as another team of 5 guys. Their tactics (it’s not a race by the way) were to change riders every 15km until around halfway, then shorten the stints to 10km, then to 5kms when everyone was super tired.


Johno lay down some heat when they had their first change so they couldn’t bridge back (like I said, not a race). Our turns were strong and changes quick so managed to keep away for the day. Then we hit the last 20km before Northam. This was some extreme, rugged country. With the tricky 4W driving and with opening and closing gates, I was getting further and further behind Johno. At one point he was climbibg the next hill as I was on the one behind, with his bike on his shoulder, in beast mode (not a race).


In Northam during dinner, we had the usual banter, fines and briefing for the next day. We also had a few of the kids from the Comet schools get up in front of us all and tell us their stories. The Comet schools are an initiative of Youth futures for kids that aren’t fitting into mainstream schools due to heaps of different reasons. For these young men and women to stand up in front of 70 people and tell them their story was quite inspirational and brought a tear to a hard man's eye. These kids have been through some tough times, and are now killing life.

Day 4

64kms. The shortest day, but by no means, the easiest. This was up and down and up and down throughout the entire day. First bitchen, then gravel, then washed out 4WD tracks. This really was quite technical when you are so fatigued. The 4WD tracks at the end of the day had been washed out by recent rains. Line choice was pivotal to finishing with all your bones in one piece. You could, of course, take it easy, but what’s the fun in that! At Mundaring Weir, the riding was done. Time to share stories, compare bruises and have a sausage. Can’t wait for next year.